Remember the last time you had a bad sleep?
You woke up feeling irritable and not motivated to do anything productive. Before you know it, a few good hours have gone to waste before you get your head on straight.
Having a good sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. While you sleep, your heart and blood vessels get proper time to heal. Your brain forms new pathway to better process information the next following day.
Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. – Source
You can improve your sleep quality by targeting different forms of sensory stimuli.
- Buying a new fluffy pillow or sturdy king-sized bed to improve comfort level (sense of touch)
- Using a sleeping mask to block out light sources (sense of sight)
- Spraying scents to relax the body (sense of smell)
- Wearing headphones to isolate noises and putting on relaxing music (sense of hearing)
However, those are too gaudy to be worn outside of the comfort of your bedroom. In this buyers’ guide, the headphones we picked are suitable to be worn at home and at your workplace.
Who should buy?
- People with tinnitus
Tinnitus is a condition where the person hears a constant ringing or buzzing sound. The sounds come from within the body and not from an external source. These sounds are further magnified in a quiescent environment.
Hence, having some light music at a low volume can break the monotony of silence. This allows the sufferer to get better sleep.
- People who want to catch a wink in a noisy environment
On the other spectrum, people do use headphones as a premium earplug. It is used to block out or reduce ambient noises, e.g., snoring, noisy neighbors, air flight.
The level of noise isolation needed will depend on the person’s personal preference.
- People who need music to induce sleep
If you have trouble falling asleep, you might want to put on relaxing music to lull you to sleep. Research has shown that participants who listened to 45 minutes of relaxing music find it easier to induce sleep. They reportedly had a better quality of sleep and longer sleeping time.
How we pick and rate?
We picked and rate the headphones based on 5 factors:
- Noise Isolation
- Sound Quality
- Sleep Ergonomics
The level of comfort determines how long a user can wear his headphone. The less discomfort he feels, the longer he can wear it. For healthy adults, the recommended sleep time ranges from 7 to 8 hours. This means the headphone will be worn for a considerable period of time.
The headphones’ material should not cause friction or sweat to the wearer even after an extended period of usage. The structural design of the headphone should not place pressure on the wearer’s ear too.
In the best scenarios, you would not even notice the headphones after wearing them for some time!
Comfort and fit go hand in hand. A comfortable pair of headphones is useless if it keeps slipping off. Instead, a headphone with good fit should stay snug while you doze off to dreamland.
You definitely wouldn’t want to wake up with a bad back, or worse, damage your headphone by sleeping on it.
Blocking out ambient noise is one of the key factors to a good night sleep. But, a complete isolation of noise is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is down to your personal preference.
Some people prefer to just block out low-frequency noise like the droning engine sound. They still want to be aware of sounds like their baby crying or fire alarm. Hence, headphones with active noise cancellation are perfect for dealing with such noises.
But if you have a below-average threshold for noise, a headphone needs to have passive noise isolation design. Features like over-ear earcups can muffle noises and prevent sound leakages. In-ear headphones can also isolate noise by sealing the ear canal.
We favor headphones with a balanced sound signature or one with slightly forward mids. Relaxing songs tend to perform better with such headphones. A forwards mids brings out the clarity of the vocals and instruments such as harp and flutes.
Headphones with a v-shaped sounds signature place emphasis on the lows and trebles. The recessed mids forms the valley of the v-shaped sound signature. Extended listening to songs with such sound signature can cause fatigue easily.
Everyone have their preferred unique sleeping position, unless you are on an air flight, which in that case, you can only sleep upright.
The sleep position can be differentiated into three main categories:
People who sleep on their back with their hands generally on their side.
- Side Sleeper
People who roll on either side while asleep.
I call this group the “free-styler”. If you often find yourself waking up with different position every morning, you belong to this group
Different type of headphones suits each type of sleeping position. Over-ear headphones are difficult for the “side sleepers”. Wired headphones can present a tricky situation for the “rollers”. But if your dominant sleeping position is the “soldier” stance or you are sleeping upright on a chair, you have more choices of headphones to pick from.
Considered as entry-level headphones, the Shure SExxx5 are known to be one of the most comfortable around. Like all other IEMs in the Shure SExxx5 series, the SE215 also adopts a low-profile shape that allows it to sit flush with the ear.
It has a thin nozzle which is angled to prevent it from constantly pressed against the ear canal. This ergonomic design allows the earbuds to lie comfortably in the ear.
The Shure SE215 does an excellent job at staying put in your ear. The earpiece is designed to route the cables behind the head. With the cable oriented upwards and cradling around the ear, it reduces the amount of weight tugging on the cable.
Hence, even with intense workout, you will find it really hard to dislodge them. In fact, it snugs so fitly that it takes a bit of practice at first to get them off swiftly.
The noise isolation is excellent. With its sound isolating sleeves and snug fit, the Shure SE215 can block up to 37 dB of background noise.
That is enough to block out the engine sound of your mowing machine.
With a neutral sound profile, the bass, mids and highs are well-balanced. It is also versatile enough to bring warmth to songs that needs it. The treble rolls off on rock songs and the bass is tight, without being overwhelming.
The midrange is the highlight of Shure SE215. Vocals sound rich, smooth and engaging. It is also peak-free at lower treble and upper mids. This brings an enjoyable sonic experience even with the volume turned up.
With a low profile shape, the Shure SE215 lies flush with the ear. This allows the wearer to sleep on their side without feeling any pressure between the ear and the pillow.
The only issue affecting sleep ergonomics is the length of the cable. The cable is long because most users are musicians. The cable gets clumsy especially for users who have a “rolling” sleeping habit.
However, this issue can be resolve. Since the cable is detachable, you can spend additional cash to get a shorter cable. But I wouldn’t say this is a dealbreaker.
The Shure SE215 score really well in all departments except for the sleep ergonomics. But with some modifications, the Shure SE215 shines as a headphone for sleeping. Priced at only $99, it can dual serve as a sleeping headphone and also a capable recreational headphone.
Without the burden of the cable, the Airpods feels almost weightless. Just like the Earpods, it is easy to get in and out of the ear.
It can get so comfortable that you don’t get a sense that you are wearing a device at all!
It is actually a earphone more than an IEM because it sits in the outer ear, rather than in the ear canal.
Hence, even though it stays well in the ear, you find yourself adjusting the earphones from time to time.
You will not get the same level of fit as the Shure SE215 but it does handle jerky movement well. The Airpods can be worn for physical activities and still stay in perfectly, with some minor tweaking of course.
With the earpiece lying on the outside of the ear canal, they are not designed for noise isolation. However, it still works well enough for office environments. Do not expect any stellar performance in a noisy cafe though.
For an earphone, the sound quality is top-notch. The sounds are well-balanced and rich. The bass is punchy without overpowering the mids. Vocals and musical details are delivered with clarity.
Due to the slightly loose fitting, it has an open and airy quality to the sound. You will either love it or hate, depending on your preference.
With the flush design, you can sleep on your sides and roll around the bed. No more worrying about wire entanglement.
The Airpods performs stellarly in both the comfort and sleep ergonomics department. This is not surprising, given the good build quality that Apple is known for.
Even though the Shure SE215 has a better fit over the Airpods, the Airpods allows the wearer to sleep freely and comfortably in any position.
The noise isolation department is where the Shure SE215 really pulls ahead. But, if you desperately need some noise isolation, you can find solace that you can crank up the volume, without having the sound quality suffer.
At less than $40, you will struggle to find an IEM with equal build quality at the same price range.
Weighing at half an ounce or around 15 gram, you can barely feel it while wearing it.
The comfortable in-ear design allows it to be worn for long period of time without feeling pressure against the ear canal.
The Taotronics comes with 3 different sized ear piece that would fit most people. The silicon wingtip allows the IEM to stay secure to the ears. It remains snug even after an intense workout like running.
The wingtip will also mold to the shape of the ear.
Fitted with CVC noise cancellation 6.0 technology, ambient noise is greatly reduced. If you are at a noisy playground, you only need somewhat of a lower medium volume to drown out the noise.
Despite being a sub-$40 pair of headphones, the sound quality is surprisingly good.
With a largely neutral sound profile, it is able to handle most type of song genre thrown at it. The bass sounds tight without drowning out the mids. The highs came out crisp and transparent. Mids sound clear and smooth.
Even at high volume, you will struggle to hear any distortion. The Taotronic
It is suitable for all types of sleeping position.
It has a remote control attached to the earpiece, which dangles along the neck level. You might find this irritating while sleeping.
The Taotronics is unpretentious and non-flashy. It has a noise-cancellation technology, comfortable and snug fitly. All this for a ridiculously cheap price of $38.
Despite the overall good review, do take note that we are reviewing it in relative to its price range. This is definitely not audiophile quality. But, it serves its purpose well as a sleeping and work headphones, at a fraction of the price.
Whether you sleep upright or have any of the three sleeping habits, one of our picks should be able to meet your needs.
Having a good night sleep is important. We hope that this guide can help you identify a headphone that can increase your quality of sleep. Good luck and sweet dreams!